U.S. Customs and Border Protection allege the goods are manufactured using the forced labor of detained Uyghur Muslims.
The United States is imposing a region-wide ban on all cotton and tomato products from China’s western Xinjiang region over allegations that they are subjected to the forced labor of detained Uyghur Muslims, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on Wednesday.
The action covers raw fibers, clothing and textiles made from cotton grown in Xinjiang, as well as the region’s tomato-based food products and seeds. The ban, known as the suspension order, also applies to products processed or made in third countries, CBP officials said at a press briefing.
The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), estimates that approximately $ 9 billion in cotton products and $ 10 million in tomato products were imported into the United States on last year.
DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli said the ordinance sends a message to importers that “DHS will not tolerate any forced labor” and that companies should eradicate Xinjiang products from their supply chains.
In December, the US Congress passed the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which assumes that all products made in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and therefore banned under the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, unless that the CBP commissioner certifies to the contrary.
The move is the latest by the administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump to harden the US stance against Beijing in the administration’s final days, imposing economic sanctions that would make it harder for President-elect Joe Biden to ease tensions. U.S.-Chinese after taking office on Jan.20.
The move follows a ban on cotton products from China’s largest producer, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). Both will have a significant impact on cotton production in Xinjiang, which produces up to 20 percent of the world’s supply of the raw material.
CBP officials said about 43 shipments of cotton products have been held up at U.S. ports of entry since the announcement of the XPCC ban. US clothing manufacturers have in the past criticized a broader ban as unenforceable.
The United Nations cites what they say are credible reports that a million Muslims held in camps have been put to work in Xinjiang and religious leaders, activist groups and others have said crimes against humanity, including genocide, were being perpetrated there.
China denies mistreating Uyghurs and says the camps are vocational training centers needed to fight extremism. Beijing dismissed the forced labor allegations as “fake news … to suppress Chinese companies and China.”